[Video] Uber Files Exposed: My Testimony at the French Parliament Hearing

On Wednesday, May 17, 2023, I shared my expertise on the intricate relationship between Uber, the platform economy, and the production of data for AI training. The hearing was part of the French National Assembly commission’s investigation into the revelations stemming from the Uber files. Nased on various research projects of my research team DiPLab and on my monograph En attendant les robots (Seuil, 2019), I provided insights into the legal, technological, and ethical implications of Uber’s extensive data economy.

Click to access the video recording of the Hearing (in French).

For a comprehensive understanding, you can explore the full parliamentary report (in French) [here].

The report, stemming from this investigation and hearing, casts a revealing light on Emmanuel Macron’s involvement while leading the Ministry of Economy. It discloses his efforts to foster the growth of Uber within France. Strikingly, despite Uber’s legal non-compliance in the country, the platform managed to cultivate allies at the highest echelons of the state. The relationship between Macron, his cabinet, and Uber is described as both opaque and privileged, hinting at the intricacies of their interactions.

Expertise at the Intersection of Sociology and Technology

My academic background and research interests lie at the intersection of sociology and technology. As the co-director of the research team DiPLab, I have been involved in projects such as SWIRL (Slash Workers and Industrial Relations), HUSH (The Human Supply Chain Behind Smart Technologies), and TRIA (The Labor of Artificial Intelligence: Ethics and Governance of Automation), which aim to provide policymakers with data-driven analyses to shape informed policies.

Uber’s Data Economy and its Implications

During the hearing, I emphasized the central role of data in Uber’s operations and its implications for various stakeholders involved. I highlighted that Uber collects vast amounts of data from both its app users and drivers, which is then utilized to train autonomous vehicles for the company Aurora (formerly ATG, a subsidiary dedicated to developing self-driving technology).

  1. Legal Implications:
    I stressed the need for stricter regulations regarding data collection and privacy in the platform economy. A key concern raised at the hearing was the long supply chain involving data trainers in low-income countries to annotate multimedia data collected by autonomous vehicles. Uber’s failure to implement Due Diligence on working conditions in data processing would not satisfy the privacy rights of workers and app users.
  2. Ethical Considerations:
    The ethical dimension of Uber’s data economy was a key aspect of the hearing. I discussed the responsibility of companies like Uber to ensure transparency and accountability in their data practices. Moreover, I stressed the importance of informed consent and fair treatment of drivers, who often find themselves in vulnerable positions within the platform economy.

Promoting Scholarship-Driven Policies

My testimony attests of the crucial role that academia can have in shaping policy decisions in the face of rapid technological advancements. Projects conducted by DiPLab, including SWIRL, HUSH, and TRIA, are prime examples of research initiatives aimed at providing policymakers with data-backed insights to inform their decisions. By drawing upon these research endeavors, I hope to have contributed to the development of scholarship-driven policies that prioritize ethical considerations, privacy protection, and fair treatment of workers within the platform economy.